When FWE started in 1953 the question of “What heat system do I need?” was a much simpler one, but that is certainly not the case these days. There are many options to choose from and it’s easy to get confused or not know which one does what. Don’t worry, that’s what we’re here for! By the time you’re done with this article, you will know how FWE’s heat systems operate, the different verbiage, and which one is right for you.
DRY HEAT VS. WET HEAT
Before exploring our heat systems in greater depth, make sure to take note of the following: FWE makes two distinct categories of heating systems
- Dry Heat – These heat systems add no humidity at all to the area the food is being held within. The only moisture within the cabinets is released from the food being held within. Heating Systems within this category are mainly aimed at holding food for short periods. This is due to uncovered food items drying out from the lack of moisture within the heated air.
- Wet Heat (moisture) – These are systems where moisture is added to the heated air. Food held within these systems can be held at serving quality for much longer than those held within dry systems.
From these two categories stem a variety of heating systems that function to accomplish their unique goal based on type, volume, and length of hold required for whatever product is being held. Just remember that all our heat systems will fall into one of these two categories. Now that that is settled, let’s jump in!
Dry Heat Systems
As previously mentioned, dry heating systems do not add any moisture at all into the system. These systems are designed to keep your products hot and ready to serve for short to medium intervals of time. These systems can add important buffers during the staging process and alleviate some headaches that modern chefs face in the kitchen. With a never-ending flow of customers during peak hours and higher standards than ever before, it is imperative to utilize every tool at your disposal to ensure that every customer leaves your restaurant with a hot meal, full stomach, and a smile on their face.
The heat system that started it all, FWE’s Radiant Heat utilizes a concept that everyone is familiar with which is that heat rises. The heating element in the unit is located on the bottom and once the element is activated heated air will then rise to the top causing the cooler air to drop to the bottom and be heated. In turn, the products in the cabinets are gently surrounded by constant heat maintaining their temperature as they wait to be served.
Currently, this type of heat system is used within units that are utilized within QSR chains or convenience stores, such as the HLC-1826. It’s great for covered products and short-term holding of food, such as premade burritos or muffins that are being held for a customer to grab and go when they want to eat something warm on their way to work.
Heated Surface Radiant Heat:
HHS Utilizes Heated Surface Radiant Heat
This heat system incorporates a heated blanket element attached to the surface where the food is placed to produce heat. The heat emits out of the element and provides a “soft” heat to items being held on that surface. You can find this system in our HHS line of products, such as the HHS-513-2039.
Something to consider when utilizing this heat system is that operators that stack to-go orders on top of each other might have a difficult time keeping the upper stacked containers warm. This system requires direct surface-to-surface contact for optimal results. We would recommend keeping stacking to a minimum to see the best results. Don’t worry though, if you are operating where items need to be stacked the next heat system may be right for you!
Top Mounted heating systems, such as FWE’s TST-19, provide a large circulation of hot air throughout the interior of the cabinet, eliminating hot and cold spots. The built-in top mount heat system provides a slim cabinet profile yet meets the demand for high capacity service.
Because the heating element(s) and controls are mounted to the top of the unit, cleaning is a breeze! At the bottom where food particles or grease typically collect is a solid smooth stainless steel surface, meaning clean-up is as simple as wiping this area with a wet towel to remove food particles or residual grease.
A potential limitation to this style of heating system is that the high volume of air movement has the potential to cause your product to dry out. We recommend these units be used for shorter periods or with wrapped or crispy products. This may limit how long and what foods you hold with these units. While this type of heating system may not be for everyone, the fast recovery times and easy clean-up make it a no-brainer for the right operation.
Infrared Heat System:
This heat system uses longwave infrared elements to maximize the hold times of crispy, fried foods such as fried chicken, french fries, onion rings, etc. The infrared elements are mounted directly above the area where the products are held to deliver the infrared heat quickly and directly. This heat system is used in FWE’s HHS-IR series of products.
The HHS-IR platform was designed with no moving parts to maintain, such as fans or filters, that tend to get bogged down from grease, grime, or wear and tear. This means less downtime maintenance and repair and the stainless steel design means that clean-up is as easy as taking a wet cloth and wiping down the surface.
One thing to keep in mind about this heat system is that its main use is for fried, crispy, and wrapped food products. While it is great at maintaining their crispy breading, it will cause unwrapped foods to possibly lose moisture and dry out to an unsavory degree.
The Dual Heat heating system is utilized in our E-Series line of heating cabinets. This heating system uses a combination of both electric and canned fuel heating systems together to aid in the flexibility of these units.
The main use of these cabinets is caterers who are unsure whether they will have access to electrical outlets in the spaces they are catering. Once you are on-site, if the appropriate electrical outlets aren’t available, users can switch over to canned fuel canisters to provide radiating heat in the cabinet and maintain their product’s safe temperature zone.
Also important to keep in mind is if you plan to run units with canned fuel for more than 2-4 hours then having backup canisters to refuel the heat system and operate the unit as intended might be necessary.
With those considerations in mind, these units provide valuable peace of mind for caterers who go to different locations and could not make sure there will be appropriate electrical outlets to operate their heated holding cabinets. These take what could be a gigantic stressor out of their minds and lets them focus on what is most important, the food!
Low Temp Cook and Hold Heat System:
LCH-6-6-G2 uses the low temp cook and hold heat system.
Low Temp Cook and Hold Ovens, such as the LCH-G2 series, provide the most “bang” for your buck while cooking products. They are used to cook food low and slow to maximize yields primarily while cooking roasts, prime cuts, or other kinds of meat. This low and slow style of cooking is controlled by either an internal product probe or by a cooking time selected by the operator which allows users to cook their product to the perfect internal temperature. The heat system operates by incorporating a gentle fan that facilitates the natural caramelization process, without the use of any browning agents, to preserve the taste of your meat’s natural flavors.
Something to keep in mind when considering these units is the “slow” part of “low and slow.” The product will take longer to cook but will produce the largest yields and cut down on waste. This is because the food’s juices are retained inside the meat so there is less shrinkage, and the natural enzymes tenderize the meat. See what kind of savings you could be missing out on by checking out our Cook and Hold Yield Calculator!
Retherm Heat System:
Retherm heat systems, such as those used in FWE’s RH line of products, are some of our most powerful heat systems. They are most commonly used in schools, universities, or other large institutions that need to reheat large quantities of food for serving. Units using this heat system take foods that have been prepared before being needed and then bring them back to serving temperatures quickly and safely without overcooking or dehydrating the product.
This is to comply with USDA safety rules stating that prepared food must be reheated to an internal temperature of 165 degrees, within two hours, or it must be discarded. This heat system is designed to do that much faster, if needed, to give your cooks more cushion during rush periods while still staying within regulations.
Users can either rely on an internal temperature probe or set a timer on the unit to complete the retherming process without the need for constant monitoring. These units use a large, high-speed fan combined with high-wattage elements to facilitate the retherming of the food products with heated fast-moving air.
The efficiency of these units can be increased dramatically when combined with a roll-in rack that allows users to roll in, and out, dozens of meals to a single retherm oven. This combination allows one worker and retherm to perform the work of multiple to serve food to large groups of people that otherwise would not be possible.
The high power that this heat system outputs should be considered when deciding on which unit is right for you. The powerful fans and large heating elements have the potential to cause the product to lose moisture if not operated properly. This can be mitigated by adding water (which we’ll explain more later) to the heat system, thus producing moisture and maintaining the product’s overall quality. Now that we mentioned moisture it’s the perfect time to transition into our wet systems. Let’s get started!
Moisture Holding Cabinet Water Pan
Many wet systems, also known as moisture holding systems, are designed to perform similarly to dry systems, only with moisture added. This added moisture increases the proficiency of the cabinets by a large margin. After all, the most valuable commodity within a kitchen is time. Units with moisture added to their internal environments give a kitchen more time to cook bulk foods, prepare key portions of meals before needing to plate, and prevent food waste. There is an in-depth article about the intricacies of moisture heating systems available, but we will be covering the basics below. Let’s get started!
Humi-Temp (Passive Humidity):
The Humi-Temp heat system utilizes a “passive” humidity system that is created by pushing heated air across a water-filled pan. An example of this can be found in our UHS-12 unit. The movement of the heated air allows it to circulate enough moisture throughout the cabinet and keep food fresher, longer, and juicier than if you had a unit utilizing a non-moisture based system. This is our simplest form of moisture holding and is perfect for holding products for short to medium terms without worrying about them drying out.
You can find more information about this within our “Guide to Moisture Holding“ article.
Moisture Temp (Adjustable Humidity):
Another system that is discussed in our “Guide to Moisture Holding” article is the Moisture Temp heat system. This system is a step-up from the Humi-Temp system mentioned above as it allows more control over the amount of moisture circulated within your unit. We find it is easiest to remember this system by the moniker of “More or Less” because the operator can control the moisture distributed throughout the cabinet by turning a knob up or down thus creating more or less moisture. Our most popular unit that has this heating system is our MTU-12.
Something to keep in mind when considering the Moisture Temp system is that while it allows operators to adjust the control of humidity in the cabinet, there is no effective way to dial in a precise moisture level. The humidity controls are only capable of being controlled to levels ranging from 1 to 6. This is great for a process such as proofing dough. Once the desired environment is achieved, the operator can replicate this again and again by using the corresponding settings.
Clymate IQ (Precision Humidity):
There is no substitute for precision, and FWE’s PHTT line of products, including the PHTT-12, utilize the most precise equipment that we have to offer. Our Clymate IQ heat system gives operators valuable peace of mind as they no longer must deal with the headache of constantly monitoring moisture levels within their cabinet. How does it work you might ask? Well, these cabinets utilize probes, precision control panels, and an automatic computer monitoring system that lets operators dial in an exact humidity percentage and the desired temperature needed for their products to be held. The computer will then monitor the environment and automatically adjust as needed allowing users to “set and forget” and spend their time performing other important tasks.
Another key aspect of our Clymate IQ system is how it contributes to less food waste. When operated correctly, the precision of this system gives operators a consistent and trustworthy yield and assists in eliminating human error or unsatisfactory holding conditions. This not only cuts down on product waste but also saves valuable time which we know chefs can never have enough of.
Proofer Heat System:
FWE’s Universal Proofer & Heated Cabinet holds an Energy Star certification
The Proofer heat system is a specialty system designed to facilitate the proofing and rising of large quantities of dough. The built-in humidity system balances moisture and air with controlled heat and humidity capabilities allowing for greater control of holding products for long periods. FWE’s Proofer Heat System eliminates hot and cold spots by gently circulating hot, moist air throughout the interior of the cabinet. Humidity can be added and adjusted to preserve the moisture content of the food keeping the food fresh and hot for hours.
Units, such as FWE’s PHU-12, utilize this heat system to provide the perfect environment for your proofing needs. We go into greater detail about how this heat system can make your life easier within our “Pizzeria Equipment” article. If you need more information on a proofer that is reliable and consistent, be sure to check it out!
Retherm with Moisture Temp:
A RH-18-MT with electronic Moisture Temp controls
Last, but certainly not least, is our Retherm with Moisture Temp system. You might be thinking to yourself, but we already talked about both Retherms and Moisture Temp earlier in the article and you would be right, The Retherm with Moisture Temp combines the best of both worlds and gives users more control over the environment in the equipment. This heat system provides all the benefits that we discussed prior, while also adding the benefit of circulating moist air. This allows users to produce high quality meals and hold them for extended periods. This is important for retherm ovens as the high-power output, larger fans, and powerful heating elements can possibly cause products to lose moisture quickly.
The upgrades to the basic retherm ovens do not stop there. Retherm ovens with added moisture such as the RH-18-MT have upgraded and easy-to-use touch screen controls which allow operators to easily preset the time, temperature, and humidity levels in the unit. This simple 3 step format combined with automatically controlled venting eliminates the need for constant monitoring with electronic sensors within the unit. These controls also allow users of the units to create up to 8 preset controls for simplifying the process even more.
To Wrap Things Up:
We know that a single article might not answer every question you have about our heat systems, but we hope that this helped clarify some of the terms we use here at FWE. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us and we will be happy to assist you. We have almost 70 years of experience with food warming equipment, so we have probably answered your question before and would be happy to help!
Commitment to Customization
FWE understands that every restaurant has a different kitchen and within these kitchens are unique obstacles that need to be overcome to serve customers the best product possible. Therefore, we offer custom solutions for all our products for almost any circumstance. Our engineers love the challenge of crafting customized equipment to suit your needs. If you cannot find the perfect product you are looking for, request a quote from our sales team and we may be able to help!
As always, if you can dream it, we can build it!